The Golden Rule
We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” According to the Federal Election Commission, Barack Obama raised $155.4 million more than Mitt Romney for this presidential election (“Campaign,” 2012). The results of the election will illustrate whether this rule still holds true. If Obama wins, we might just chalk it up to the fact that money has become a kind of weather vane in American politics.
Several variables contribute to a winning campaign. According to Kai Ryssdal (2012) of Marketplace, the more popular a candidate becomes, the more funding he or she attracts. However, several studies suggest that the funding actually causes popularity. According to many scholarly sources, increased spending significantly affects the vote share each candidate receives come election time (Nagler & Leighley, 1992).
Obama has the money angle covered, as he is spending much more to win the election than Romney, but another very important variable in politics seems to be who comes out looking best amid all the mudslinging. On September 2, 2012, Romney and Obama were tied in the polls. The disclosure of a secret Romney fundraiser speech seemed well-timed indeed. Just as Obama regained a lead after the tie on September 2, a damning video was released by an anonymous source and circulated on the Internet. How conveniently Obama mastered yet another electoral variable.
Romney’s latest faux pas arrived Monday, September 17th, 2012 with the questionable “secret video” footage circulating on YouTube, and the debacle has made national headlines. Romney makes a blatant sweeping generalization in this video, characterizing many Obama voters as people who feel they are “entitled” to government support, claiming that most of “them” don’t even pay income taxes. He continually refers to himself as one of “us” as he regails his wealthy audience with tales from a visited Chinese factory.
The video will most likely damage Romney’s popularity, which will cause a dip in the polls. As Romney is already far behind Obama in funds availability, this may be a blow from which his campaign cannot recover. Further, though Romney might have been concerned with speaking to a specific audience, the video seems shady. Most of the statements Romney makes in the video seem to be taken out of a larger context. No images are apparent in most of the footage, and the source remains unknown because Mother Jones, who broke the story, wishes “to protect the confidential source who provided the video” (Corn, 2012). With this stroke, the Obama Campaign scored a definite point.
While Mother Jones vouches for the video’s authenticity, claiming that the fundraiser occurred on May 17, 2012 at the Boca Raton home of Marc Leder, the entire video hasn’t been released. This could occur if the person filming the video had a limited amount of storage space for data on the device used. However, this video could also be part of a smear campaign against Romney.
Either way, we all know politicians fight dirty. One can’t blame Romney. No one plays politics like people from Chicago. Whether the video release was planned or the Obama Campaign simply pounced when opportunity presented itself, Romney should just admit the truth. Obama possesses superior fundraising, politicking, and schmoozing skills—not to mention a multitude of seriously beneficial connections.
If everything Romney said in the soon-to-be infamous video was heard in context, he might make more sense. Of course, he might not. The Republican Party continually fails to offer more moderate voters an adequate supply of rational, intelligent candidates for fear of alienating the Religious Right. As is, portions of the video are spliced together, and the only consistency is the background noise. One can hear the pouring of wine or another drink, the clink of silverware against a plate, people moving and shifting, the sound of a chair scraping expensive tile, and all of this lends authenticity.
Whatever the true purpose of the video, Obama seems to have the support of many more wealthy people than Romney, if the figures from the Federal Election Commission can be believed. The difference between $348.4 and $193 million isn’t easily dismissed. Of course, plenty of politicians have cooked their books over the years, but it’s nice to know that Obama and Romney are making their well-done versions available online. Most people can’t handle rare meat. Power to the people.
“Campaign finance disclosure portal.” Federal Election Commission. (2012). http://www.fec.gov/
Corn, D. (2012). “Secret video: Romney tells millionaire donors what he really thinks of Obama voters.” Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/secret-video-romney-private-fundraiser
Nagler, J. & Leighley, J. (1992). “Presidential campaign expenditures: Evidence on allocations and effects.” Public Choice. DOI: 10.1007/BF00140925
Ryssdal, K. (2012). “Does money buy elections?” Marketplace: Freakonomics Radio. http://www.marketplace.org/topics/elections/freakonomics-radio/does-money-buy-elections